Should I sell products?
I work with a lot of photographers (and designers) who sell products. In some ways it's become expected that you have some type of product available. Plus, it seems like a no brainer. You've already done the bulk of the work to create the photos. Why not make some money on back end by offering a way to actually use what you've created?
I've also work with creatives who can't seem to make it profitable given their time limitations and business model. It's true that offering products brings an added complication.
Albums, prints, frames, canvases, cards, wood panels, metals, cases, boxes, bags...
Not only is there the added chaos of keeping all the products straight, but then there are multiple vendors, added costs (cost of the products, shipping, branding/packaging, etc), all that time to design/edit and order, and all the options for discounts. Are you able to afford that 20% off discount that the client is asking for? Will you end up loosing money?
All that being said, it can't be denied that offering clients products could not only be profitable, it could also fill the revenue gaps during the slow season, or better yet, it could fill the actual needs of your clients. After all, they didn't spend thousands of dollars on a wedding photographer just to have their images sit on their hard drive and to only be looked through once a decade.
So yes, my answer is that you should offer products IF you can systematize how you keep track of all the options AND if there is a real desire from your clients (not from other vendors in the industry). In order to successfully offer products however, there are three main pieces to consider:
- STAY ORGANIZED
Ya, that seems obvious, but it's not as simple as creating a list of products that you offer. Vendors, pricing, costs, margins, time, and your target market's current need. It's best if it's systematized in a way that is easy to access, view and change as your vendors or costs change. Homeroom's Product Pricing Tracker is a good example of a way to organize the chaos.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE
Before adding all the products that you can find, start small. Wrap your head and your organizations around two products in two different variations each. Making it easy for you will make it easy for your clients AND allow you to answer their questions more clearly.
"How much will it be with that additional discount, you ask? No problem, I have that information right here"
...and in the back of your head you also know how much money YOU are making with that given discount.
- COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
Products can get overwhelming pretty quickly for you and your client. The most important piece of any good marketing strategy is effective communication with potential customers. They need to know what it is and why they need it. Use the products to showcase why they need/want to hire you specifically in the first place. Best case scenario: use your service (i.e. photography or design) to create a demand for your product, and use products to create a demand for you and your service.
1, 2, 3, and you're well on your way to making ALL THE MONEY. By diversifying how your business brings in revenue, you'll be creating a more sustainable business model. Creating systems will make juggling all those balls in the air seamless and sustainable. You got this, boo!